The novel opens as Fred Pooley returns to London for the first time in six years. He’s been living in Hong Kong doing nothing much more than work. When spontaneous bouts of crying force him to reconsider his life, he returns to England to try to understand and expunge the gaping hole he feels inside.
He seeks new occupations – writing workshops, a pretty woman – but can’t help reconnecting with his first love, Sally, even though it was their break-up that sent him to Hong Kong six years ago. She now has a daughter and this starts Fred thinking about what it would have been like if they’d had a child of their own and a desire to be a parent, something Fred would never have believed he was capable of before (especially as he persuaded Sally to have an abortion), begins to overwhelm him. He is plagued by a sense of missed opportunity.
All those years ago Fred donated sperm to a clinic, what if his sperm had been used to create children? If there were children running around with Fred’s DNA inside their cells shouldn’t he know about it? Wouldn’t he have some responsibility for their well being? Shouldn’t he look in on them if he could?
And then the pretty woman gets him a job working for a fertility firm, the same company Fred visited all those years ago…
Add the complications of a mother Fred doesn’t want to contact and a Father who deserted him before he was even born, and Mister Spoonface becomes a novel that takes a deep hard look not only at what it means to be a father or a parent, but what it means to be alive at all. That gaping hole Fred feels isn’t just about reproduction, it’s about making sense of the world in whatever way humans can.
The perfect novel for book club debate, Mister Spoonface is a quick and provocative read that forces the reader to question their own assumptions about parenthood, reproduction and the responsibility involved in forging and maintaining emotional connections. As we follow Fred Pooley’s journey into obsession, we are forced to look deep into ourselves.
Next week I’m reading Asking For It by Louise O’Neill. I’ve built up a rather large list of books I want to read while I’ve been taking a break from blogging, but it is fun to be back and great to start with Paul Blaney’s novel. I hope to interview him in a few weeks for Authors QH. I’ll keep you posted.